Dress yourself in toxins

I tend to be literal in an almost painfully knucklehead way.  My naïve willingness to fall for countless idioms is an endless source of amusement for my husband.  And, I routinely misquote one-liners – an infamous Kate-ism is “Don’t count your eggs before they hatch.”.

So, in thirty-plus years of life (please, don’t make me repeat that number in print or aloud…), it’s really no wonder that I didn’t consider dry-cleaning to be anything other than “dry”.  I mean, the word dry – the opposite of wet – is part of its phrasing.  Well, boy oh boy, was I wrong.  Like – ERRRRRR! – wrong.

I don’t do a lot of dry-cleaning, because I tend to live with a wardrobe that can handle carpet-like dog hair, is stain- and child-funk-repelling friendly and relatively resistant to the incessant toddler-grabbing wrinkles.  You will very, very, very rarely find me in the kind of silk blouse or pair of fine wool pants that cause full body-shudders if red wine, lipstick or a blade of grass come within a foot.

A family member or two have suggested looking into the process of dry-cleaning because the rumor they have heard is that it is toxic.  Well, ding! ding! ding! – the rumors are right.

Dry-cleaning is only “dry” in the essence that it doesn’t use standard water and laundry detergent for cleaning.  The practice of dry-cleaning has been around since the mid-1800’s, but was extremely dangerous because the chemicals used were petroleum-based and highly flammable.  In the 1930’s, the government began regulating these chemicals and like most inventions born from necessity – an alternative was born…

Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) – widely known as “PERC” – became the industry standard around this time because it was gentler on fabrics and non-flammable and has been in use ever since.

What do you need to know about “PERC”?

  • It was the distinct honor {?!} of being the first chemical to be classified as a carcinogen (def: a cancer-causing agent)
  • PERC’s other common function is to degrease metal parts
  • It is highly toxic to soil, water and the atmosphere
  • Studies have shown that as little as eight hours of exposure results in negative effects to the central nervous system; headaches, poor balance, light-headedness
  • Cancer associated with exposure include cancers of the esophagus, bladder and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • PERC can be absorbed through water, air, skin or food

I know that not everyone has a wardrobe like mine and there are some professions where top-notch is the only way to dress.  It’s a good thing that there are alternatives to traditional PERC-based dry-cleaning.

How can you avoid dry-cleaning?

Look into greener alternatives

  • Ask about liquid silicone cleaners and liquid carbon dioxide cleaning
  • Look into “wet-cleaning”: an option that involves a special computerized washing machine that uses just water (see, the “wet” part of the name) and biodegradable soap

Wash your own clothes. Modern day clothing makers are required to recommend only ONE cleaning method – not all the acceptable and available methods.  Many manufacturers list “dry-clean only” in an effort to avoid any liability for shrinkage or other mishaps.  Wool and rayon are ones to steer clear of washing because they are susceptible to shrinkage and can be unpredictable.  But, most cottons, bamboos, linens, silks and ramies are household-wash friendly.

Call around and ask your local dry-cleaners what methods they are using. If they aren’t using a PERC-free system, ask them if they’d consider changing.  It’s worth a try.

I did the local phone-tree thing and called around.  Here’s what I found out…

I called six of the twenty-five cleaners in our county and half of the ones I talked to had PERC-free cleaning methods as their standard offering.  They used either hydro-carbon or wet-cleaning methods.   I was impressed by how quickly I obtained the information and pleasantly surprised by my findings.  I wish they were all PERC-free, but some options are better than no options.

My dialogue:

Me: Do you offer any eco-friendly cleaning that is an alternative to standard PERC-dry-cleaning?
Reply: Yes.
Me: What is it?  Hydro-carbon?  Wet-cleaning?
OR
Me: Do you offer any eco-friendly cleaning that is an alternative to standard PERC-dry-cleaning?
Reply: No.
Me: Wahhhhh! Cough-hack-moan…. (just kidding!)

It seems frighteningly strange to me that we are wearing clothing that have been washed, dried and soaked in a toxic, cancer-causing chemical.  Does anyone else see the asinine nature of this practice?  It’s almost like the phrase “dry-cleaning” was created as a cover-up for a practice that was never safe – be it flammable or not.  And, it certainly isn’t dry.

Go for wet cleaning – whether it’s professional wet-cleaning or your handy household washing machine.  It’s better for you, me, our environment and all the people around!

Anybody have any luck looking into greener alternatives to dry-cleaning in your area?

The opinions in this blog are all mine, but the facts were taken from an article on The Daily Green by Alexandra Zissu and an article in Mary Jane’s Farm by Mary Jane Butters.

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This entry was posted in home & hearth, nice & natural, practically personal. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dress yourself in toxins

  1. Kurt says:

    Check out nodryclean.com for a list of cleaners near you offering alternative methods of cleaning, including wet cleaning, CO2 and silicone.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Dress yourself in toxins | The Sacred Bee's Blog -- Topsy.com

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